Derry City and Strabane district Council has refused to give up the ghost on its joint bid with Belfast to host the European Capital of Culture in 2023 despite the opinion of the European Commissioner responsible for the competition that cities from Britain and the North are ineligible as a consequence of Brexit.
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council has advised the ‘Journal’ that the five bidders - Derry/Belfast, Leeds, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Dundee - are continuing to liaise with the British Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) on the “status of the ECoC 2023 competition” and to agree a clear way forward for all the cities involved.
Both councils remain committed to this process and will communicate any further developments once they become available, a spokesperson said.
Derry’s bid to repeat the success of City of Culture 2013 on an even larger scale, however, were dealt a blow when the Director General of Education and Culture at the European Commission, Martine Reicherts, wrote to the British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Karen Bradley, in November, to claim British and Northern Irish applicants would not be eligible due to our projected non-membership of the European union by 2023.
Ms. Reicherts was writing on behalf of her boss, the European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics. As it happens, the disqualification of the British and Irish bids from the 2023 competition means Hungary will be the first nation to get the European Capital of Culture title all to itself since it became a multi-national award in 2007.
That’s unless the European Commission offers another country an 11th hour opportunity to share the honour.
Mr. Navracsics, incidentally, is a native of Vezsprém, one of the Hungarian candidate cities, alongside Győr, Debrecen, Eger, Miskolc and Tokaj, one of which will be selected to share the honour whether Derry/Belfast gets a reprieve or not.
Politicians from both sides of the divide have disputed Mr. Navracsics’ interpretation of the competition’s rules. DUP Alderman Drew Thomspon has accused the European Commission of “pettiness” and pointed to six cities - Kraków, Prague, Bergen, Reykjavik, Stavanger and Istanbul - in non-European Union states that have hosted the title since it was initiated in 1985. Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson, meanwhile, has suggested ‘special status’ for the North post-Brexit, should afford Derry/Belfast a unique dispensation.